10 things to do with your ashesMarch 1st, 2010 by Paul Hensby
Being cremated isn’t good for the environment – burning the coffin and body takes a lot of energy and releases dioxins into the atmosphere. Apparently 11 per cent of the mercury contamination of fish in the North Sea comes from crematoria – it’s where the mercury emissions from fillings in cremated bodies end up.
It’s estimated that this could increase to nearly a third in a few years because of the huge numbers of fillings in the older generations. Something to think about when tucking into your cod and chips…or indeed, going for a bracing swim in the North Sea.
Even so, 70 per cent of people are currently cremated when they die (rather than the other way round), and this will continue for the foreseeable future, which will make the fish in the North Sea even madder.
David Prendergast, of Sheffield University, concluded after conducting research into how people dispose of ashes, that Britons are becoming more unorthodox in dealing with death. He supported this by citing the growth in the market for personalised mortuary products, most of which deal with our ashes in one way or another.
Once you, or your loved one, is cremated, what do you want to do with the ashes?
The ashes of a cremated body weigh between five and seven pounds, which is a lot. So you can do different things with small amounts of your ashes!
Here are some options:
1. Normal, traditional disposal
Most people are traditional when it comes to death and funerals. And still the most common things to do with your ashes are spreading them on the crematorium’s rose garden or burying them in a cemetery or churchyard. Quite a lot of ashes are left with funeral directors, where they will be stored until claimed. Does anyone know how undertakers dispose of unclaimed ashes? Maybe a question for the National Association of Funeral Directors who run vocational courses which must cover this sort of issue.
2. Put into memorials for the house and garden.
You won’t be surprised to find out that this trend started in the US. Now in this country there are increasing numbers of companies that make structures into which the ashes are contained, and which then adorn the living room or the garden. Some are beautiful, some are classic, some are appallingly tacky, some are a bit weird such as inside hollowed books. There are increasingly funky designs and materials for the memorials into which your ashes can stored. I suppose it’s a talking point when the conversation flags.
3. Being part of something useful.
You could have some of your ashes filling the void behind a clock face in specially made clocks. This is more popular for the ashes of family pets – yes, no joking, people pay money to put Rover’s remains in the back of a bespoke clock. But what’s good for the dog could be just as good for you, so consider requesting your loved ones to put your particles within a clock on the mantle piece. Then imagine the look on people’s faces when your family says to a guest: ‘Just look at the time…did you know, dad’s ashes are in that clock?’
4. Birdbaths and sundials.
There are companies making specially constructed birdbaths and sundials with voids in the base into which your ashes can be poured. The hole is then securely stopped, the object turned the right way up and then placed in the garden as a permanent memorial. Nice one, that.
5. Mixed with paint
Yes, there are artists who will paint your portrait or a landscape of your favourite view, and mix some of your ashes with the oil paint to give it a unique texture. Rather unromantically, one such artist, Mike Smith of Devon, perfected his technique using cigarette ash.
6. Turned into jewellery.
No I’m not kidding, some people will pay lots of money to wear jewellery made out of a loved one’s ashes. They can be made into diamond like gem stones and glass pendants, or put into small containers and worn as display jewellery. This is a sort of 21st-century version of Victorian mourning jewellery, when it was common to put a piece of the deceased’s hair in a locket.
7. Scattered over a favourite piece of water.
You are not allowed to spread ashes over the sea too close to the shoreline for obvious reasons…how would you like to come out of the sea after a swim, covered in grey ash?
But, as long as you (or probably your loved ones) get permission you can be sunk to the bottom of the sea, river or lake, or even garden pond, in a slowly dissolving eco-friendly container. In the US, it is possible for your ashes to be turned into memorial reefs around which pretty fish swim. The company will give loved ones the GPS survey to record the specific longitude and latitude of the memorial reef.
8. Sprinkled at your favourite sports club.
Increasingly popular, but some caution here…don’t expect all your ashes to be spread over the playing surface or fairway… most groundsmen will politely refuse this request although a small symbolic amount might be allowed. Larger sports clubs have training grounds and other areas where it is allowed.
9. Sent into the sky in special firework rockets.
There are companies that make fireworks for this purpose. The ashes are mixed with the explosive to form the display. You can get a lot of rockets with seven pounds of ashes as part of the mixture! I suggest a great beach party, with your favourite music playing, all your friends and loved ones having a great time, and midway through the rave, up you go in the rockets exploding over the sea.
10. Put into special shotgun cartridges and fired into the sky.
Again, the ashes are mixed with the explosive charge, and BANG, off you go, spread far and wide. Presumably popular with huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ types.
And, to make life easier (pardon the pun) there are purpose designed and built ‘scatter tubes’ which make the spreading of ashes easier.
More information about your ashes and memorials appear in www.mylastsong.com.